“Swot”: Nasa satellite is to provide a global picture of the situation on the water

Science earth observation

Nasa satellite is to provide a global picture of the situation on the water

Satellite SWOT Satellite SWOT

NASA’s Swot Earth Observation Satellite

Source: NASA

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Climate change is changing the Earth’s water system – in the oceans and on land. The NASA satellite “Swot” is to measure the sea level and the resources of fresh water with an unprecedented resolution. The satellite is more accurate than previous measurement methods.

Dhe planet’s largest reservoirs of heat and carbon dioxide are the world’s oceans. They therefore play a central role in the further development of the global climate. They can counteract the greenhouse effect by absorbing CO₂ from the atmosphere.

Rising global temperatures in the atmosphere also lead to more degrees Celsius in the world’s oceans. This alone causes sea levels to rise, as warmer water has a larger volume. That from melted glaciers water that comes from it is added. In the 20th century, sea levels rose by a total of around 17 centimetres.

Measurements from environmental satellites show that the annual rise in sea level is accelerating and is currently almost four millimeters per year. Although this average shows the overall drama, it says little about the specific development on specific coasts.

The ocean has mountains and valleys

The surface of the sea is by no means flat, even if you disregard the waves. Viewed globally, there are mountains and valleys in the oceans that are caused by the inhomogeneous gravitational field of the earth. For example, there is a 110 meter deep valley south of India and an 85 meter high mountain of water north of Australia.

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Statements about the regional development of the sea level, the currents and the turbulence in the water, especially near the coast, which is of particular interest, were only roughly possible up to now. A new earth observation satellite NASA called “Swot” (Surface Water and Ocean Topography) is intended to close this knowledge gap.

The radar interferometer from “Swot” is to measure the surface of the oceans with an unprecedented resolution of 20 kilometers and, in particular, be able to detect changes in sea level off specific sections of coast. This is particularly important so that people in regions particularly affected by rising sea levels can prepare in good time.

Satellite measures lakes and rivers

“Swot” is not only intended to measure the oceans with record accuracy, but also the freshwater resources on land. The researchers speak of a “worldwide inventory”. “Swot” will collect data from hundreds of thousands of lakes, rivers and wetlands in order to obtain the most complete picture of the situation possible.

It is already clear today that climate change is changing the hydrological conditions on earth and that there are shifts in water resources. This change can be quantified in detail with “Swot”. This data is an important basis for regional decisions on how to prepare for and react to expected changes in the water system.

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Overall, it is about a better understanding of the water cycles on land, the dynamics of floodplains and wetlands, the volume of water transported by rivers and the interplay of rivers and lakes. With its precision measurements, “Swot” will provide information on regional changes in freshwater availability worldwide with a level of accuracy not previously achieved.

Conflicts due to lack of drinking water

Adverse changes in the regional availability of Drinking water obviously have a high potential for conflict – within a society but also between neighboring countries. Problems are to be expected in particular when rivers used for water supply flow through several countries.

The earlier and more precisely changes and trends in the water system are identified, the more time there is to think about suitable adaptation measures.

It’s not just about securing the water supply for people and agriculture. The researchers hope that the measurement data from “Swot” will also help to identify regions that may be more likely to be hit by severe flooding in the future. It is also important to take appropriate precautions.

The launch of “Swot” is scheduled for December 5, 2022. A Falcon 9 rocket from SpaceX is to launch the Earth observation satellite from the Vandenberg Cosmodrome in California.

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